And the Elder Shall Serve the Younger
And I remember now how it nearly happened, my brother’s drowning.
We’d put on stocking caps and walked stiffly down the road toward the gravel pit
in our rubber boots, doubled-up socks, and duck-brown coveralls, our uniforms of men.
A hard freeze after sleet had glazed the mounds of gravel and sand into ziggurats
which held their shapes even as we stood on their crests now leveled and grooved where
the loader’s bucket had drawn back, dragging its teeth to prepare a place of sacrifice.
The black boom of a crane loomed over the quarry pond, but it was not out there,
under the milky green with the catfish, where my brother descended almost to death. [End Page 66]
Beside each of the mounds was a pit, deep enough to drown in we couldn’t say,
the water in them so brown and thick they were more a medium for mud than anything.
He’d made it to the middle of one before the ice gave way and he dropped to his armpits,
eight years old and sinking. All I could do was punch my way to him, breaking the crust
and muscling through the slurry to bring him back with me to the shore, both of us
effigies about to become icons in our suits of muck already hardening
around our bodies. Back home, we laid it all outside the door and, when it had frozen solid,
leaned ourselves against the house to think about the life we missed, the one our mother
glimpsed later when the sweep of her headlights revealed the empty coveralls standing on their own. [End Page 67]
PAUL BONE is the author of Nostalgia for Sacrifice. He has published poems in The Sycamore Review, The Birmingham Poetry Review, Think, Cherry Tree, The Southern Poetry Review, Peacock Journal, and others. He is coeditor of Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry and Measure Press.